Fine Gael attacks low conviction rate for killings
Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
The Observer, Sunday 15 March 2009
Gangland killers are operating with a sense of impunity in Ireland, Fine Gael claimed last night, following another gang-related murder in Dublin.
Charlie Flanagan TD, Fine Gael's justice spokesman, accused the government of allowing criminals to wipe each other out. The murder of 27-year-old Shay O'Byrne in Tallaght on Friday night, believed to be linked to a feud between rival drugs gangs, is the eighth gangland killing in Dublin so far this year.
O'Byrne was shot in the back while running away from the gunman at Tymon Park North. A 26-year-old woman, who was with O'Byrne, was shot in the leg. She remains in hospital although her condition is not life-threatening. Last night, gardai were still questioning three people about the attack. One of the lines of inquiry officers are exploring is the possibility that O'Byrne was scheduled to meet members of a rival gang for peace talks.
The murder was linked this weekend to a feud between two crime gangs in the Crumlin/Drimnagh areas, which has claimed 13 lives over the past few years.
Flanagan said the gangland feuding in Dublin and other Irish cities was now out of control: "With gangland murders happening at a rate of one every nine days it is clear the government's impotence is allowing criminals to operate with a sense of impunity.
"Justice minister Dermot Ahern may talk the talk when it comes to ordering gardai to tackle organised crime but at the end of the day that's all it is - talk. In fact, by cutting back on garda overtime the minister is actively giving criminals a break from the law instead of ramping up the fight against gangland.
"There are some who say, 'Once it's gangland, let them at it,' but that runs contrary to the fundamentals of democracy and would represent a total breakdown of law and order."
Flanagan also pointed to the low conviction rate for gangland killings in Ireland. "I commend the gardai for already making arrests in the case of the Tallaght shooting, which appears to be another incident in the Crumlin/Drimnagh feud. However, it is deeply frustrating that criminals have every chance of getting away with it. Just seven homicide convictions in relation to the 94 gangland murders since 1999 is grim evidence of that," he added.
A garda spokesman said: "All three people arrested are male and they are being detained at Rathfarnham and Tallaght garda stations under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act." It is understood that one of the men in custody is in his late teens, while the other two are in their mid 20s. Gardai said yesterday that a man was seen running away from the murder scene before being driven out of the area in a Silver-coloured Nissan Primera. A garda spokesman said the vehicle's partial registration was "00D" and was later seen in the nearby Castlelawn Estate a short time after the shooting. Another car, a sky-blue Volkswagen Passat, with a partial registration number of 06WW, was also seen in Tymon North Gardens at the time of the shooting, the garda said.
The gunman is believed to be between 25 and 30 years of age, 172cm (5ft 8in) tall with dark hair. He was dressed in black and had a hood. The other man is believed to be in his mid to late 30s, 172cm tall, with dark, tight cut hair.